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Team Yamaha's Jon Kirkham made an amazing debut on the Rob Mac Racing Yamaha Superbike at the last round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, deputising for Karl Harris.

The youngster from Derby was drafted in at the eleventh hour after Karl Harris had to leave the circuit just before the commencement of qualifying due to personal reasons.

Jon had just finished his Superstock qualifying when he got the call from team principal, Rob McElnea. Despite his other race commitments, Jon stepped up to the challenge to qualify the Rob Mac Racing Yamaha in a very impressive 9th position, having only ever done a handful of laps on the bike at an informal test earlier in the year.


The team had to swallow yet another cruel twist of fate as they looked their most successful weekend of their turbulent season in the face. Harris had been consistently fastest all weekend and looked sure to put the Yamaha YZF-R1 on the top spot of the podium.

Race One was the first time Jon had performed a race start on the bike, despite getting away with a pack of riders he dropped back to 13th and had his work cut out to regain his top ten place. Ever the professional, Jon focused on the task ahead and chipped away at his lap times, making progress on Billy McConnell ahead of him.

By mid race, Jon managed to make up the place and started to pull a gap on the riders behind. Settling into his rhythm Jon overtook Tristan Palmer for 11th but had over a 2 second gap for a top ten finish. Despite his best attempts the gap was out of his reach. But with Michael Laverty retiring and a crash from Stuart Easton, Kirkham regained his start position, crossing the line in a very respectable 9th.

A better start in race two enabled Jon to get away with the top 10, quickly elevating himself into 8th position on the first lap. With the vastly experienced Superbike grid around him, Jon fought a hard battle to stay within the top 10. By lap 3 he saved a slide, which resulted in a cramp in his right leg, his progress faltered till mid race but by then he had dropped a few places to 12th. Sheer grit and determination saw Kirkham dig deep to regain a place and reward himself and the team with a double top 10 finish on his Superbike debut.

"I finished my R1 Cup and Superstock practice yesterday, Rob called me and said get to the garage in your leathers and helmet and before I knew it I was in Role for Pole! I realistically thought that I could get into the second session but to qualify the whole way thorough and into 9th was a dream," said Kirkham.

"I wasn't sure whether to do the R1 Cup race but decided to try for the Autumn Cup and got that. I got a bad start in the first Superbike race and had a lot of work to do but managed 9th. The second race I struggled with cramp but was determined to get into the top 10. To be honest with you I'm knackered, I'm race fit for my Superstock and R1 schedule but to ride a Superbike is a different challenge. I'm so pleased to be offered this opportunity and hopefully I did the team proud."

Rob McElnea, Team Principal, added: "What a massive challenge Jon has risen to this weekend. I was forced to put him in a really difficult situation but when it mattered he rose to the occasion. It was a massive ask and he did not put a foot wrong. To ride our bike like that was a testament to his season. We knew his potential and have nurtured that all year but this really proves his talent."


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